Grappling the GAA

5 Dec

And yet again, another reason to knock this bugger off as soon as possible: I caught some sort of bug and missed a day right on the home stretch of collection period #1. While I have had most of it collected for weeks, I still need to assemble all of the pieces and fill out the entry sheets. Honestly, annual reviews are a lot easier than this bugger!

One of the things that make this particularly onerous is that at the end of each year, everything that was done is supposed to be destroyed and gotten rid of. Which means reinventing and retyping things over and over again redundantly and repeatedly each year. Yes, I know; that’s the point. If the students were actually doing it and it was actually based on student achievement, this would not be an issue at all. But since it has nothing to do with actual student achievement, it has to be treated as a yearly teacher assessment. Which means we have to destroy the previous year’s work so that it doesn’t skew the results of the current year. Given that the students and tasks change from year-to-year but the teacher doesn’t (well sometimes), there is only one reason to destroy all the material from previous years: it isn’t the student who is being evaluated and assessed.

So I’m sifting through several thousand pictures using Picasa. It is a great (free) program for going through large batches of photos. I then assemble 4-6 pictures on a single power point slide for each piece of evidence and then fill in captions off to the side in a narrative form, addressing all of the things that we’re supposed to address on each piece of evidence. Portions of this text will also used on the entry sheets. I’m trying to minimize the repeated redundancy as much as possible.

Invariably, I find holes where I need a bit more evidence. I really prefer that most tasks are done across a number of days so I can have photos showing progression (or no progression) and differing settings. Some parts of a task, such as watching a movie, are only just so exciting. Having multiple viewings or multiple dimensions of a task can help ad a bit of variety to the photo spread. So I’ve had to pick up a few pieces here and there.

At present I also have a conundrum on a couple of areas. My two hardest are algebra and social studies. Algebra is difficult to make relevant in any capacity for my students. I understand that jobs and college require it. Got it. But my students are not going to either, and have little concept of quantity, numbers and one-to-one correspondence let alone the symbolic and abstract concepts in algebra. And I know what some apologists are thinking: we can do the prereqisites as long as we can link to the standards and that is what we do. But it still isn’t relevant.

With social studies, it’s a different dilemma. We have a lot of good choices in that subject area, provided a body is really creative. Last year, I had a para who was marvelously crafty and creative and helped kick that whole subject up a notch for the students. You would think it would be easy to replicate that same thing, even if she isn’t here. But it isn’t, given the numbers and students that I have this year. I’ve never been that craftsy, and prefer to cede a lot of that to the paras and I’ve always had at least one who would and could do it. But not so much this year. The student teacher brings in good energy and vibes, but she is only here 3 days a week for a few weeks. So I’m going back to the old standby, which is under economics: money identification and properties. I’m still going to try to finish Mexico, just so I have the option of using it if I like it better.

OH! But one thing did kind of fall into my lap. I had used some Halloween activities and materials for the listening/speaking/viewing tasks and was wondering what collection #2′s activities were going to be. I really needed some Christmas theme but going out to the community, which is my normal home run generalization activity, simply can not take place with the numbers we have. However the interior design teacher next door is doing holiday-related decorations and invited us over. WooHoo! I’m saved! I hope. We’ll see.

But I am spending a lot of late nights at the school trying to hammer this thing out and get collection #1 finished before my Wednesday Tuesday deadline. It’s just one more stupid stressor among many that we all have to deal with and somehow we manage to pull it off each and every year. I’ll do it again this year and wonder how the heck I ever managed to do it. By the time the break comes, I am totally spent and ready for it! I got spoiled last year with only the one student, but this year I have 2. And middle school teachers who have ALL of your students to do, I feel your pain! I was sitting there last night at 7:30 wondering how you guys manage this every year.

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2 Responses to “Grappling the GAA”

  1. Deb December 20, 2009 at 9:26 am #

    Daniel, just want to let you know how much I enjoy your blog. I teach a middle school self-contained class. This year I am fortunate enough to only have 7 portfolios to compile (all three grade levels)..this feels like a vacation since I’ve had 9-11 the previous years. Keep on writing!

    • Daniel Dage January 6, 2010 at 6:44 pm #

      Thanks for reading and commenting! I wish you luck as we work to finish these buggers up. I struggle with just 2, it’s difficult to imagine going 7! It must take a tremendous amount of organization and planning to get everything done.

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